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BGTG 149 - Modern Microgames (with Jeff Myers)

Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
California
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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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Board Game: Love Letter

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Board Game: Famous 500: The World's Smallest Car Racing Game

Board Game: Ogre

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Microgames are hot right now. It all "started" with Love Letter, when it burst onto the scene at Essen two years ago. Here was an game that was so inexpensive as to be an impulse-buy, so small it could fit in your pocket, so simple it was easy to teach anyone, and so quick it invited games whenever you had some spare time & friends onhand, like at a restaurant. Suddenly the game was everywhere, re-themes were ubiquitous, and other small games inevitably followed.

The problem with that explanation, of course, is that Love Letter wasn't the first incarnation of a microgame. Far from it. In the days before euros (almost before RPGs), the term "microgame" appeared to describe small format wargames. In fact, I have an early BGTG episode all about those! For some diehards, that term still starts in the late 1970s with pocket-sized hex & counter wargames. Even if that was way before your time, you probably know one example from that era, because Steve Jackson recently republished his landmark title, Ogre. Besides the Kickstarter behemoth, he proudly re-issued the original microgame version of the game, and at the same price! $2.95!

But putting aside the history lesson (and soapbox), it's still true that Love Letter got a lot of attention, and has sparked interest in gamers, designers, and publishers, for new boardgames in a small format. Jeff Myers, of the excellent GameGuyThinks blog, joins me to discuss this topic. This time, I try my best to avoid the trap I usually make for myself: definitions. Though we try to define what microgame means in 2014 a little bit, we don't get bogged down or philosophical on that point. It's more fun to talk about some examples we've played, as well as reconsider some earlier games that might now appear to be microgames. Or are they? To be honest, I don't see a big difference between what we've long called Filler Games and this new crop of Microgames. Not unless there's something magical about having only sixteen cards. Also, the ever-increasing field of Print-n-Play games crosses over to this topic, too. (If you really want to discuss/argue about the definition of microgames, go see manchuwok's geeklist.)

We talk about the new line of modern micros from Chris Handy (his Pack O Game series) and Rob Bartel (his Famous/World's Smallest Sports Games series). There are some good ones in there (I particularly recommend Famous 500, the car-racing game).


Jeff came up with a point system he thinks helps identify microgames. It's semi tongue-in-cheek...but only semi.

+1 30 components or less
+1 20 components or less
+1 10 components or less
+2 Retail package of 20 cubic inches or less
+1 Footprint of 20 square inches or less
+1 Retail price of $20 or less
+1 Retail price of $10 or less
-5 Cards are only component
-5 Micro-version of larger game.

If you score 5 or more points, you may be a microgame.

So what about these?


Board Game: Fliegende Teppiche
Board Game: Rhino Hero
Board Game: Coloretto
Board Game: Pickomino
Board Game: Zombie in My Pocket


Links
Rob Bartel's Famous/World's Smallest Sports Games series
Chris Handy's Pack O Game series
BGTG 26 - Microgames
Microgame HQ - the database of older, wargame-style microgames that I worked on in the 90s
Pack O Game kickstarter (ends Aug 30)
Classic Microgames Museum
Crazy Squirrel - Fresno's awesome game store.
Jeff Myers
United States
Fresno
California
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Poll
What are the important qualities of a modern microgame?
  Very important Kind of important Not that important
Fits in (or almost in) a pocket
Retails for under $20
Plays in 30 minutes or less
Can play on a crowded restaurant table
Has fewer than 20 parts (cards, tokens, etc)
Isn't a small/travel version of larger game
Plays with more than just cards or just dice
      141 answers
Poll created by MarkEJohnson



-Mark




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